Thursday, 28 July 2011

Amiens Cathedral 1

(Click to enlarge) Two of the west portals of the Cathedral of Our Lady at Amiens.

Much has been made of the technical developments which are seen as characteristically "Gothic"- the pointed arch, the flying buttress, rib vaulting and so forth. The ambition and spirited competitveness which drove the cathedral builders to build ever higher- Amiens Cathedral, incidentally, is the highest complete cathedral in France- are frequently remarked upon with some wry asides at the apparent vainglory. My own impression, however, in looking at these churches, is of a powerful earnestness- a sense of an over-riding concern to make the very building and its mute stones speak.

The top image which shows the tympanum and archivolts of the south doorway of the west front honours Our Lady, as befits a church dedicated to her. Holding the ChristChild her figure is shown in front of the doorway while column figures depicting the Annunciation and Visitation stand to her left (our right). On the lintel above are shown prophetic figures from the Old Testament, while above to the left we see the death or Dormition of the Virgin while to the right the angels have descended to her tomb in order to assume her body into Heaven.

In the lower photograph can be seen the central doorway where the theme is the Last Judgement. The figure of Christ is central here and the column figures represent the twelve apostles. Dominating the tympanum we see Christ sitting in judgement and displaying His wounds while to His left and right Our Lady and St John intercede for humanity while angels hold up the instruments of the Passion. Underneath we see the dead rising from their graves as the four angels sound their trumpets. Lower still, St Michael is shown weighing souls in the balance.

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